Symptoms and causes

What is it?

The pancreas is a gland located in the middle part of the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. This gland produces various substances that are important for digesting food and for regulating blood sugar levels.

Inflammation of the pancreas is called pancreatitis. This inflammation can manifest itself in two ways: acute (i.e. sudden, unannounced) and chronic (i.e. more prolonged and/or recurrent).

Causes

The two most common causes of acute pancreatitis are galstones and alcohol consumption (the amount of alcohol varies from person to person).

Galstones can cause pancreatitis when they get out of the gallbladder and get stuck in the main bile duct.

The most frequent cause of chronic pancreatitis is excessive alcohol consumption.

Symptoms

Both forms of pancreatitis are almost always accompanied by severe pain in the upper abdomen, which sometimes radiates to the back. Vomiting, fever and jaundice can also be symptoms of this inflammation.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment

Treatment of pancreatitis consists primarily of removing the cause: in the case of bile duct stones, it usually involves performing an ERCP, which may be followed by removal of the gall bladder. If alcohol is the cause of the inflammation, stopping the consumption of alcohol can be the solution. People with pancreatitis often need to be hospitalised for treatment.

Treatment centres and specialisations

Digestive Centre

Latest publication date: 21/01/2021
Supervising author: Dr Vanderstraeten Erik